I have been a fan of Archbishop Joseph Tobin for a couple of years. He gave the commencement address at Cardinal Ritter High School in May of 2013, and my older son was graduating that night. There were many in the crowd who were honored to have the archbishop there, but I could not have cared less. My son was graduating after all.
As it turns out, it may have been the best speech I have ever heard.
I specifically remember his recount of his experience meeting Mother Teresa, when he was serving as pastor to an inner city Detroit parish. He was also the chaplain for the sisters of the Missionary of Charities, the order Mother Teresa had established, when she visited the city.
During his exchange with the living Saint, he expressed his awe regarding her precision at collecting her exact target amount at the prior evening’s service. He said to her “That’s really something.” To which she angrily replied, “No, Father, that’s not something. God never gives me too much—for fear that I’ll forget him. I get just what I need.”
I have thought of that story often the last couple of years. His teachings inspired me again this week when the Archdiocese of Indianapolis decided to resettle a family of refugees from Syria over the objections of Governor Pence. The Governor and the Archbishop have agreed more often than not over the past three years, but this time things were different. The application of faith required a parting of ways this time.
The archbishop was all class in his statement describing the reasons for his decision and he concluded it with this:
“As we wait with hope during this season of Advent, I ask all people of good will to pray for peace in our homes, local communities and throughout the world.”
I write this week’s column as I return from my honeymoon. With the political events that occurred at home while I was away and the celebration of my new life still intertwined, I thought I would share a short list of thoughts that refresh my own faith.
1. I believe and have trust in God. Certainly my God, but I also believe that the faith others have provides them with the same sense of purpose that my faith provides me. That similar purpose brings me closer to them. My intellectual curiosity in other religions in recent years has refreshed and energized my own. It confuses me when I see ignorance of other faiths lead people so quickly and blindly to feelings of fear and hatred.
2. Being in love makes me want to be a better person. It’s hard to imagine being in a loving relationship with someone that doesn’t inspire me to be the best version of myself that I can be. Being the best version I can be for her also makes me feel closer to God.
3. Traveling, even to wonderful and exciting places, makes me appreciate my home. One day on this trip, my wife and I got up in the middle of the night to travel with a group of strangers to the top of a mountain to see a “world class” sunrise. And it was cool. The next day, a friend posted a picture on Facebook of an Indiana sunrise that blew my world class experience away. By a mile in fact. Hoosiers have sunrises and sunsets covered. I don’t know how widely that is known, but it should be. Again, these things reenergize my faith.
4. Nothing makes me miss my two sons more than seeing children playing on a beach like I did this week. And at the same time, it fills me with a profound sense of gratitude for the time I got to spend playing with them on beaches when they were little. It also clarifies the ongoing sense of purpose all parents must feel, and the limitless pride of the things done as a parent that were clearly done well.
5. Political ambitions need only exist to make the world a better place. Winning elections or policy debates only really matter for this reason. Winning politically for the sake of winning is clouding the reasons for entering the contest to begin with. It seems lately that a short term bump in the polls is becoming the exclusive reason for most policy moves made in our political arenas. And the embarrassing support by the general public for the gimmicky and sometimes ridiculous moves by our current political field is starting to look like a drug being thrown at its addict. Many politicians these days cite “faith” as their reason for many decisions, and then consistently abandon any connection to it when fear-based and anger-based choices will prove more beneficial in the short run.
Archbishop Tobin set a great example for our community this week, and for the right reason. It should be easy for an archbishop to make decisions based solely on faith. But his move this week also helped make it easier for me to see what really matters to me and why. I am thankful for that.
And as my honeymoon comes to its technical conclusion, I am confident that all of the things that freshened my faith while I was on it will stay vivid in my soul for many years to come. Of course, if any of it gets cloudy, I know just where to go for the boost most of us could truly use from time to time.
With a commitment to faith, that place could be just about anywhere.